Touchstone

Origin Systems

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Touchstone was a rather ambitious RPG/graphic adventure game which was being developed for Origin by Sensible Software, back in the days when Martin Galway was part of Sensible Software.

Zzap 64, issue 61, ran an article on Sensible Software and first gave details about the game, with the following being printed:

Sensi embarked on a massive RPG adventure titled Touchstone (remember the band?). "For two years we had been working on the gameplay and story for Touchstone, a traditional storyline fantasy RPG but with a twist in it. It became so big and very intricate. We originally wanted the player to be able to approach the game through one of the many plots and sub-plots.

Origin decided that the American market [that it was primarily aimed at] was changing towards the Nintendo consoles. There was no deadline as such but admittedly we weren’t making much progress. Origin are good to work with and it was an amicable decision to stop the project in November of last year (1989).

The project is now dead but we still hold the copyright and we’d dearly love to see it come to life. The good thing about it is that it’s adaptable. As we’ve worked on the story for 18 months; and the gameplay for 6 months, it can be a text adventure, a Cinemaware-style game, even an arcade adventure, whatever – a game to suit the client."

As yet there’s no word on any interested software house. Fingers crossed though.

A very long period of time was spent on the game as you can see, but its believed that very little C64 code was actually produced and a lot more time was spent on storyboarding and also the Amiga version.

Very strangely, Martin Galway was the main coder on the game whilst Chris Yates got on with other projects. Things as a result were slow as Martin (according to interviews) was not a prolific games programmer. The platform kept changing too – starting on the C64, the game was moved from the C64 to the Amiga and then to the PC platform.

Unfortunately no version was ever to get a release. So much time was spent on the game, and no end product was forming that in the end Origin decided to pull the plug on the project. Sensible Software got to retain the copyright for the game, and still hold it today.

It is unknown how much of a C64 conversion exists, but it is likely only to be a series of tech demos. Who has these?… Potentially Martin or Chris will still have some disks with remains of the game. There is to be no music found, as unfortunately Martin never got chance to compose the music due to spending more time on the programming of the game itself.

This game is something of a well remembered title for the Sensible Software guys – it took up a large part of their lives, and they still believe that the game has massive potential. There was even rumour once of it being ressurrected for the new platforms of today, but nothing has sadly materialized. For a game respected so much by its creators, this sounds like something very special to find. Hopefully if the Sensible guys uncover anything, we’ll be able to bring it to you (And maybe even Amiga/PC versions for our relative sister websites).

Hopefully we’ll dig up more soon on this intriguing RPG. For now, check out Creator Speaks for notes from the creators (From different sources).

More soon we hope…

Contributions: Commodore Zone website, Cybergoth, Andrew Fisher

Supporting content

[Question to Jon Hare] Were there any other C64 titles worked on which never saw the light of day?

"You know the answer to that is honestly no.... we worked on a huge graphic adventure game called Touchstone when Martin Galway was with us but that was
for PC I think.... maybe it was C64 and it nearly got signed by Origin.. but in the end it never happened. These were the days when everything you did was published... there was none of this canning games shit that infests the industry today. It meant we
always felt in control and productive and we were MUCH MUCH MORE EFFICIENT. That is really what the Good Old Days were all about.... everything was used."

Martin Galway is quizzed by Commodore Zone about Touchstone

[Question] I remember reading in a scroller in a demo by Ash & Dave about a project you were working on with Sensi ... the game was apparently called "Touchstone" and Ash & Dave thought the music was AWESOME! Did this project ever see the light of day, if not what about the music?

"We at Sensi WERE making a medieval/magic game called "Touchstone" for Origin Systems, in 1988/9. (funny how things are connected isn't it?) I was the lead programmer, since I was sitting around doing nothing as it takes less time to do the music than the other parts of a game. But things were slow on that project because I'm not cut out to be a game programmer, and also the game kept changing platforms. It started out on a C64/assembly, migrated to Amiga/assembly (I wrote lots of code on that one), then we decided to go to IBM PC in C, like a 286-type of thing. By that time things had dragged out so much that Origin weren't interested any more! So we all decided to scrap it. But the game idea was great and I still think it could make a great title. However, I never did the music for it. Perhaps Ash & Dave were referring to "Times Of Lore", which took about a year to come out after I did the music on it, so there was plenty of time for them to audition it before it was released. Maybe they, or someone else down the line, got confused. "

Additional notes and details from Martin Galway

"1988

Beginning of the Dark Ages for me. All the enjoyable moments were squeezed into travelling to Origin Systems in Austin Texas USA, where for 2.5 months I slaved on the music and sound-effects for "Times Of Lore" with Chris Roberts & Dallas Snell. There I learnt the meaning of dedication. Chris worked 12 hours a day 6 days a week (and since I did not drive and was getting rides to work, I did the same thing). His heavy use of Pink Floyd as background musak in the office hypnotised me into making heavy effort into guitar solo work on it. Never for one moment did I not have a great time there. Even Sensible Software came over for a few days to discuss their new medieval fanstasy RPG "Touchstone", though unfortunately Jops didn't have any film in his camera so none of us have any evidence of our trip! I resolved to come to work full-time at Origin. BUT travelling back to the UK, I worked on "Microprose Soccer" with Sensible Software and agreed to forget Origin and become a partner in their firm. (My fingers start to shake with terror as I remember the events...)

1989
Height of the Dark Ages. "Microprose Soccer" dragged on as the problems with that company which would later lead to Microprose's demise were gestating & 1festering at their height. "Touchstone" grew and grew as a game and changed platforms twice and programming languages even more times. Money was very tight. "Insects In Space" was scant respite from the gloom. Instead of helping me on "Touchstone," Chris started work on a 3D Tennis game on the C64, which left me as the sole guy on the project (all programming). Then Warren Spector, our liason at Origin, called to say "oh yeah, about that Touchstone project... well, we've decided to forget about it, OK?" As a project, Touchstone remains for me the one with the most unfullfilled potential; I still think Sensi could turn the idea into a great product, it has a great story. I started work on the Amiga version of "3D Tennis."

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